ALLEA publishes Discussion Paper on Loss of Trust in Science and Expertise

The discussion paper focusses on how trust in expertise is placed or refused, highlights the affective dimension of epistemic trust, and discusses the danger of a ‘context collapse’ in digital communication. Experts from academies across Europe reflect on the current situation in which expertise and particularly research and science operate in societies today, and what has changed in relation to trust and trustworthiness.

ALLEA published the first issue of a new discussion paper series with the title “Loss of Trust? Loss of Trustworthiness? Truth and Expertise Today”. The paper addresses current discussions on the so-called “post-truth” era and draws attention to the questions of placing and refusing trust in expertise, and how expertise and scientific evidence are being contested in a changing landscape of communication.

Based on discussions of ALLEA’s international and interdisciplinary Working Group Truth, Trust and Expertise, the paper proposes to refocus the debate on the alleged loss of trust in expertise beyond people’s generic attitudes of trust and mistrust reflected in polls. In doing so, it delves into the question of how people place and refuse trust in expertise, and warns that trust in expertise is “valuable when placed in trustworthy agents and activities, but damaging and costly when misplaced”.

Particularly the “affective conditions in which trustworthiness is determined” should be more strongly taken into account. When people place trust in the information provided, they are “taking a chance in trusting someone” – putting themselves at risk and tolerating vulnerability. Judgements on an expert’s trustworthiness thus carry affective (as well as social and political) aspects that determine how people trust expertise.

For example, ”in order to understand a lack of trust in children’s vaccines”, the paper suggests that “we need to be aware of communication between experts and their audiences but also of the vulnerability that parents experience in conditions of a perceived or real uncertainty”.

The process of placing and refusing trust might also be different from place to place. “Experts and expertise are not monolithic, and we need to engage with the importance of cultural differentiation locally and around the world. Understandably, this can lead to situations where trust is refused not for lack of credibility or confidence, but due to shortcomings in the delivery of the affective and social aspects of judgements of trustworthiness”.

“Experts and expertise are not monolithic, and we need to engage with the importance of cultural differentiation locally and around the world. Understandably, this can lead to situations where trust is refused not for lack of credibility or confidence, but due to shortcomings in the delivery of the affective and social aspects of judgements of trustworthiness”.

Digital communication and the “context collapse”

In addition, digital communication has changed the relationship between expertise and the public. The digitisation of information has led to an idea of knowledge as something that can be searched and found on the internet. This online environment often provides “little clarity about who says what in which context and on the basis of what authority or expertise”. 

The paper warns that new landscapes of communication sometimes imply a “context collapse”: “in an online environment where everything is content, the truthfulness of text, image, and sound can often no longer be determined directly from the context. In addition, whether something is true or trustworthy on social media is far less important than whether it is liked, and what is liked has economic value without any account to expertise”.

Finally, another crucial point raised by the paper is that the importance of achieving transparency and accountability whilst still encouraging academic freedom needs to be thought through further. “The initial response to claims that experts were not trustworthy was to regulate them more closely. […] We need to know whether our accountability systems support the intelligent placing and refusing of trust”.

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Health Inequalities – how do different disciplines deal with it?

The symposium “Health Inequalities – an interdisciplinary discussion on socioeconomic status, health and causality” took place on 24 May in Amsterdam. This event was featured by a joint project initiated by ALLEA in cooperation with the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM), and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

From left to right: Wim van Saarlos (President KNAW), Graham Caie (ALLEA Board Member), George Griffin (President FEAM), Bernard Charpentier (former President FEAM), Johan Mackenbach (Professor at Erasmus Medical Centre). Picture credits: Inge Hoogland

The symposium gathered representatives from across disciplines that are interested and committed to exploring unresolved issues in the context of substantial differences in health among different socioeconomic groups. The discussion was led by experts with backgrounds in various disciplines that ranged from public health, sociology, economics, and genetics. Speakers elaborated on current findings as to what extent factors like income and education determine socioeconomic disparities, and examined various methodological options to analyse the causal relationship between socioeconomic status and health, and the main mechanisms that link low socioeconomic status to ill-health and premature death. Speakers also cast a light on the challenges they face when assessing the causal effects and the associated methodologies in place within their disciplines.

Jay Kaufman, Professor at McGill University, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, & Occupational Health. Picture credits: Inge Hoogland

Moderated by the Chair of the project’s Scientific Committee, Professor Johan Mackenbach (KNAW), each of the sessions addressed the framework of mechanisms that generate social inequalities in health, while taking into account that other variables, such as geographical position, are also likely to affect these to a lesser or greater extent.

Followed by a panel discussion, speakers came to interact with the audience that was comprised of academics and scholars, junior researchers and university representatives as well as the public.


SAPEA provides evidence for the European Commission on Carbon Capture and Utilisation technologies

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) has published its second Evidence Review Report titled Novel Carbon Capture and Utilisation Technologies: research and climate aspects. The report explores whether Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technologies have the potential to contribute significantly to mitigating the effects of climate change.

As an integral part of the Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM), SAPEA was asked to produce this Evidence Review Report to inform the Scientific Opinion of the European Commission Group of Chief Scientific Advisors in response to a request from Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete.

CCU technologies aim to extract carbon dioxide from either concentrated sources or directly from ambient air, and then use it as a raw material for carbon-containing products, such as fuels, chemical products, and building materials.

The report identifies a need for innovation in policy domains, and from systemic and technology perspectives. Some main recommendations in these areas are as follows:

  1. Measures, regulations and incentives should be used to examine the energy system (including CCU) in a holistic, integrated, coordinated and transparent manner.
  2. A systemic approach is required when evaluating the energy system and CCU systems, and further development is needed in stakeholder awareness and consistency of definitions.
  3. Key technological challenges must be tackled in the areas of collection and purification of CO2 from different sources, synthesis of green-hydrogen and technologies for carbon dioxide conversion to fuels and chemicals.

To produce the CCU Evidence Review Report, SAPEA brought together experts from across Europe, via the European Academy Networks. The experts formed a working group which was chaired by Professor Robert Schlögl (Fritz-Haber-Institute, Germany), and Professor Marco Mazzotti (ETH Zürich, Switzerland).  

Professor Bernard Charpentier 2018 Chair of the SAPEA board said:

“SAPEA is delighted to present its second Evidence Review report. This report is the result of hard work and commitment from our working group, who have shown dedication to explaining what current knowledge can tell us about potential future developments in the field of CO2 management, energy and climate action. This topic is another example of successful collaboration with the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to policy making in this important area.”

The SAPEA evidence review report is available at:

A write-up from SAPEA’s expert workshop on Carbon Capture Utilisation is available at:

The Group of Chief Scientific Advisors’ Opinion is available at:

Learn more at

New recommendations on Open Data in Science in Europe

Recommendations put forth by the European Members of the International Council for Science

The European Members of the International Council for Science (ICSU) have released a statement containing a series of recommendations concerning Open Data in Science. The recommendations aim to make data more easily accessible to researchers, so as to enhance the overall quality and effectiveness of European scientific output, and to enable better verification of research results, thereby enhancing their reliability.

These recommendations are the result of the workshop “Open Data in Science: Challenges and Opportunities for Europe”, which took place on 31 January 2018 in Brussels, organised in partnership between the European Members of ICSU and ALLEA.

You may read the full statement here.


Antonio Loprieno becomes the new President of ALLEA

The President of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and former rector of the University of Basel takes over the Presidency of ALLEA for the 2018-2021 term during the General Assembly at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Professor Antonio Loprieno assumed the Presidency of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, ALLEA (All European Academies), today at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia. He takes office for the term 2018-2021 following his election in 2017, and succeeds Professor Günter Stock, who was ALLEA’s President for the years 2012-2018.

Antonio Loprieno, current President of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and former Rector of the University of Basel, was unanimously elected by the delegates of ALLEA Member Academies during the 18th General Assembly in Budapest on 4 September 2017. The hand-over of the Presidency and the election of the ALLEA Board for the term 2018-2020 both took place during the 2018 General Assembly, carried out at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences based in Sofia.

In his acceptance speech, Loprieno underlined the importance of academies as interdisciplinary and independent centres of scientific excellence serving the public above politics and national entities:

“I look forward to working closely with academies across Europe to give science the prominence it deserves. In times of fiercely contested facts in the public debate, the role of academies is ever more indispensable as non-partisan institutions designed to help science and research flourish in our knowledge societies.“

Antonio Loprieno studied Egyptology, linguistics and Semitic studies at the University of Turin in Italy. In the 1980s, he taught at various European universities, including the University of Göttingen in Germany and the University of Perugia in Italy. From 1989 to 2000, he was Professor of Egyptology at the University of California Los Angeles. He served first as Professor at the University of Basel from 2000–2006 and then as Rector from 2006-2015. Among other positions, he was President of the Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities (CRUS) from 2008–2015, and holds the Presidency of the Austrian Science Board (Österreichischer Wissenschaftsrat).

Professor Antonio Loprieno (new ALLEA President, right) and Professor Günter Stock (immediate past President of ALLEA, left) shake hands after the election of the former in Budapest in 2017.

From Trusting Science to Shaping Science Advice

The European academies’ General Assembly included a two-day international scientific conference. This year’s discussions revolved around the challenges posed to science in its role as a trusted source of evidence and expertise, as well as new experiences and examples of science advice to policy-making across Europe.

On 16 May, during the symposium titled “Science in Times of Challenged Trust and Expertise”, renowned scholars and an international audience discussed the underlying causes and consequences of the alleged loss of trust, as well as questions on how scientific evidence can and should be acquired and communicated across academic disciplines and traditions.  On 17 May, scientists and policy-makers debated recent examples of science advice from academies to policy as part of the science-policy symposium Shaping European Science Advice: Insights and Experiences, organised by the European Academy Networks’ project SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies).

Andrea Pető, 2018 All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize laureate

The event also included the award ceremony of the All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values. Professor Andrea Pető (Central European University) was awarded the 2018 prize for her wide-ranging scholarly work on gender studies and European contemporary history. The award was handed over by the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, during a festive ceremony at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The laureate delivered a lecture entitled “Parallel stories in European history”.

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Andrea Pető receives the 2018 ALLEA Madame de Staël Prize

European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel awarded the Prize to Andrea Pető, Professor of the Central European University, during a festive ceremony at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia.

Andrea Pető, Professor at the Department of Gender Studies of the Central European University in Budapest (Hungary), received the 2018 All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values today at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia. She was honoured for her outstanding scholarly contribution on Europe’s memory of the Second World War, the Holocaust and political extremism from a gender perspective.

Professor Pető is the fifth scholar to be awarded the 20,000 EUR Prize, at the initiative of ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, with the co-sponsorship of the Italian foundation Compagnia di San Paolo.

European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel handed over the Prize certificate during an award ceremony organised as part of the European academies´ annual meeting. Commissioner Gabriel praised Pető`s ingenuity in approaching Europe`s history and memory.

“Andrea Pető is a worthy recipient of this year’s Mme de Staël prize for her groundbreaking intellectual contributions in her work on women’s history in Eastern Europe. The Mme de Staël prize is unique in highlighting the importance of the social sciences and the vision of a common European identity. My congratulations to Andrea Pető for this prize and to ALLEA for choosing such an outstanding scholar”, Gabriel said.

In her acceptance speech, Pető reminded the audience to remember the “great women predecessors” in science such as Madame de Staël, who have fought for Europe`s common values. In a lecture on the parallel stories of Europe, Pető delved into the lives and struggles of Anne Louise Germaine Necker, Madame de Staël-Holstein, namesake of the ALLEA prize and a leading intellectual figure of Europe`s 19th century, as well as Júlia Rajk, the wife of László Rajk, the Hungarian Minister of Interior Affairs executed during the country’s first Stalinist show trial in 1949.

“We can all derive strength from this individual, physical joy. And we need to derive strength for our value-based fight, just like Germaine and Júlia did, because they knew that it will be a long one. There is but one thing we cannot avoid when it comes to a fight: fighting it”, she remarked.

Professor Günter Stock, ALLEA President and chairman of the Prize jury welcomed the 2018 laureate by pointing out that exploring the relationship between gender and memory is indeed a necessary activity to unsilence women in their historical context and he finished with a  cautionary reminder: Andrea Pető’s “work of unsilencing oppressed groups can only flourish when academics are free to pursue their research unimpeded by higher powers, no matter if they are governmental, economical, or indeed societal”.

The ALLEA Prize was established to commemorate that despite variations in definition and geographical boundaries over the centuries, there has always been a deep-rooted understanding of European culture as connected by an inherent diversity supported by a dynamic and vigorous intellectualism.

About Andrea Pető

Andrea Pető (Budapest, 1964) is Professor in the Department of Gender Studies at the Central European University in Budapest (Hungary) and a Doctor of Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Author of 5 monographs, editor of 31 volumes, as well as 261 articles and chapters in books published in seventeen languages. In 2005, she was awarded the Officer’s Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary by the President of the Hungarian Republic and the Bolyai Prize by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2006.

Her publications include Geschlecht, Politik und Stalinismus in Ungarn. Eine Biographie von Júlia Rajk (2007); Women in Hungarian Politics 1945-1951 (2003); Napasszonyok és Holdkisasszonyok. A mai magyar konzervatív női politizálás alaktana (2003), Interdisciplinary Handbook Gender: War (2017), Women and Holocaust: New Perspectives and Challenges (2015), co-authored with Louise Hecht and Karolina Krasuska; Gender and Far Right Politics in Europe (2016), co-authored with Michaela Köttig and Renate Bitzan; Gendered Wars, Gendered Memories. Feminist Conversations on War, Genocide and Political Violence (2016), co-authored with Ayşe Gül Altınay, and Political Justice in Budapest after World War II, co-authored with Ildikó Barna (2015), among others.

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Trust in Expertise: Spectra of Science and Knowledge Production

Second thematic meeting of the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust & Expertise held on 15 May 2018 at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia.

On 15 May, the ALLEA Working Group Truth, Trust & Expertise held its second of three thematic Workshops at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia. Chaired by Professor Ed Noort, Co-Chair of the Working Group, this workshop discussed the role of science and research in relation to the trustworthiness of methods and evidence across different academic disciplines.

In four thematic sessions, the speakers of the workshop presented different disciplinary perspectives on how to create trustworthy knowledge, discussed how greater inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation could be made possible, how historical, geographical and ethical contexts matter, and how changing norms and practices are impacting the mode of scientific production and publishing. Some of these  and  previous discussions were followed up  on the next day at the scientific symposium “Science in Times of Challenged Trust and Expertise”, as part of 2018 ALLEA’s General Assembly.

Professor Noort (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, KNAW) thanked the members of the Working Group and the invited guests from the Croatian and Bulgarian Academies for their participation, and emphasised the necessity for critical (self-)reflection on the role of the countless scientific institutions, disciplines and methods regarding an alleged loss of trust in expertise.

The major talking points and conclusions drawn from the workshop will be published in the second issue of the ALLEA Discussion Paper series. They will also feed into the third workshop on “Changing Landscapes of Communication” in Amsterdam on 31 August 2018 under the chairmanship of Professor José van Dijck (KNAW).

Learn more about the Truth, Trust and Expertise Working Group here. You can access the first discussion paper by the Working Group on the issue of loss of trust here. You can also watch our video series on Truth, Trust and Expertise here.

SAPEA Vacancy Head of Communications

ALLEA (All European Academies) is seeking a full time Head of Communications for the EU-funded project “Science Advice for Policy by the European Academies” (SAPEA)

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Conditions and resources

Starting date: As soon as possible, ideally 1 July 2018

End date: 31 October 2020 (provisional termination of SAPEA grant)

Location: Brussels, Belgium

Contract and gross salary: The contract will be in accordance with Belgian labour regulations. The annual basic gross salary, including all potential additional remunerations, ranges between EUR 48.000 and 58.000 corresponding to the candidate’s level of experience.

Travel: Regular travel within the EU is expected.

Resources: The position will have use of the necessary resources for the communications work, including access to media databases and professional monitoring services, as appropriate. The Head of Communications (HC) will work together closely with the other staff members of the SAPEA project and the Consortium partners. The HC’s work will be supported by an assistant, based at the ALLEA secretariat in Berlin.


Spanning the disciplines of engineering, humanities, medicine, natural sciences and social sciences, SAPEA is a Consortium of five European Academy Networks (Academia Europaea, ALLEA, EASAC, Euro-Case, FEAM) that brings together the outstanding knowledge and expertise from over 100 academies, young academies and learned societies in over 40 countries across Europe.

Working closely with the European Commission Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, SAPEA provides timely, independent and evidence-based scientific expertise for the highest policy level in Europe and for the wider public.

SAPEA is part of the European Commission Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) which provides independent scientific advice to the College of European Commissioners to support their decision making.

The project is funded through a grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme running from November 2016-October 2020.


ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, currently brings together 59 academies from more than 40 countries in the Council of Europe region. Its member academies are self-governing communities of leading scholars and researchers across all scientific fields. Independent from political, commercial and ideological interests, ALLEA contributes to the improvement of framework conditions under which science and scholarship excel. Together with its member academies, ALLEA informs European policy and society through evidence-based advice.

Main duties and responsibilities

The Communications work of SAPEA is central to the Consortium’s activities. The HC will lead the Communications Office, which will disseminate SAPEA’s outputs and build outreach and awareness of SAPEA’s work, including via relevant media channels. He/she will work with the European Academy Networks, their member academies, and the European Commission to communicate the Consortium’s work to key audiences, helping to promote public awareness and transparency. This position is responsible for maintaining the SAPEA corporate identity, and for curating and administering the Consortium’s website and social media presence.

The HC’s responsibilities and tasks include in particular:

  • Develop and deliver public engagement activities in a range of formats; ensure that the Consortium’s activities are communicated efficiently and effectively to target audiences, including influential stakeholder groups, and act as the first line of information for all enquiries from the media, representing the Consortium’s interests and policy positions accurately and responsibly at all times;
  • Manage the effective planning and delivery of the Consortium’s news output in close cooperation with the Scientific Advice Mechanism Unit of the European Commission;
  • Manage the budget for communications work and deliver all communications activity within agreed budgets;
  • Build relationships with journalists and other multipliers to increase understanding of the Consortium’s work and the value of scientific advice in general; develop ideas for stories, features and broadcasts as well as other forms of public engagement activities that showcase the work of the Consortium;
  • Manage a network of contacts, including science academies, partner networks, EU institutions’ communications offices and other relevant scientific stakeholders, and disseminate information about the Consortium’s work to these contacts, e.g. via a regular newsletter or other forms of dissemination;
  • Research new media contacts as appropriate for the Consortium’s work, in cooperation with member academies;
  • Manage and maintain the Consortium website, social media accounts, and the project’s on-line database of reports; coordinate, upload, update and manage content provided by, or produced in close cooperation with, others in the Consortium;
  • Attend meetings of the Consortium’s Board and Coordination Team and work closely together with SAPEA’s Senior Scientific Policy Officer, Coordinator, and Scientific Policy Officers. Regularly and directly report to the Consortium’s Board about the progress of the communications work, compiling press coverage for reporting purposes;
  • Provide advice and guidance (e.g. regarding the media strategy of a proposed action). Support and assist the Consortium Chair, Board Members, working group members and speakers in their interactions with the media;
  • Prepare the Consortium’s print publications, liaising with designers and layouters, as well as the providing metadata for reports.
  • Proofread all SAPEA publications prior to publication

Required profile, skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications

  • At least 4-5 years of relevant professional experience, such as public relations, science communication, or public engagement work; preferably in scientific institution(s) and/or at the interface of science and policy;
  • Excellent oral and written proficiency in English (native speaker level); clear and confident communication skills, ability to communicate complex scientific issues to different target audiences;
  • Experience and ability to draft and write clear, lively and newsworthy press releases, and other written materials;
  • Experience in managing websites, social media channels and blogs;
  • Experience in managing budget lines and delivering communications activities within agreed budgets and timelines, demonstrating understanding of effective cost management;
  • Strong negotiating skills in agreeing the costs for communications and media services;
  • Existing comprehensive media network and established contacts in the fields of research, science and public policy;
  • Excellent knowledge of policy-making and communication processes at European level, including EU institutions;
  • Flexible and adaptable with strong interpersonal skills and experience in building and maintaining strong working relationships with a range of internal and external stakeholders across Europe;
  • Knowledge of other official EU languages is an asset.

How to apply

To apply please send your CV, motivation letter and further application documents and/or references to by 4 June 2018 (pdf-documents, not larger than 2 MB). Interviews will take place in Brussels on 15 June. Reasonable travel expenses can be reimbursed. ALLEA and SAPEA apply an equal opportunities policy and accept applications without distinction on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Further information


The SAPEA project is part of the European Scientific Advice Mechanism and has received funding from the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under agreement No 737432